Canadian Newspaper Has It Right: To Go Green Cut Down On Packaging

Greg Galitzine : Green Blog
Greg Galitzine
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Canadian Newspaper Has It Right: To Go Green Cut Down On Packaging

Canada is a big source of American packaging material, and that includes newsprint. 

So applause should be offered to a recent editorial in the Peace Arch News, a newspaper which is distributed in the Metro Vancouver communities of South Surrey and the city of White Rock, British Columbia, Canada that face the U.S. border which called for manufacturers and retailers to cut down on the waste.

Here are some excerpts from the piece: 

"The sheer amount of packaging we deal with every day is staggering. According to the U.S.-based Dogwood Alliance, 25 per cent of the 2.4 million hectares of trees cut down every year in the southeastern United States ends up wrapping and boxing consumer goods."

"The computer age, which was supposed to diminish our need for paper, has only made things worse."

"The little plastic cartridges for inkjet printers, for instance, are notoriously over-packaged, contained in complicated boxes, attached to cardboard or plastic trays, wrapped in sticky plastic and accompanied by a series of instruction pamphlets and promotional paperwork."

The problem, says the editorial "is compounded if you happened to order that inkjet cartridge from an online retailer; chances are it was shipped in a cardboard box five or six times larger than the already voluminous box encasing the little plastic cartridge, and then further protected by crumpled paper, bubblewrap or styrofoam peanuts."

 "Responsible, environmentally-conscious consumers can only do so much to keep all these boxes, containers, trays and whatnot from filling landfills."

For Metro Vancouver and environs like nearly every city is facing a waste management problem. There is rising in adjacent to an environmentally-sensitive area of Burns Bog a landfill that is beginning to look (and smell) like the first stages of New York City's infamous and now-closed "temporary" Fresh Kills dump on Staten Island. Barges, railcars and trucks leave this scenic part of "Beautiful British Columbia" to be disposed of elsewhere. Incineration is being debated as an option in a region where thanks to traffic from urban sprawl plus the pollutants from ships, trucks and trains along with that from factories air quality is becoming problematic.

The editorial quite correctly recommends "manufacturers and retailers to do their part and reduce the amount of packaging material they use. Most of it we can do without."

What is needed to make that happen is leadership from the largest manufacturers and retailers e.g. BestBuy, Dell, HP, Staples, WalMart, for this bulk and waste costs them money too. Perhaps a LEED for packaging?

The other option is VAT or GST for waste i.e. disposal fees added to the prices. The more it costs to clean, destroy, recycle or transport or to clean up from the processing i.e. air and water pollution, solid waste disposal, the higher the costs. This is fair; why should these expenses, including resulting increased healthcare costs from tending to those who become ill from the effects be foisted onto taxpayers?

Either method--while the former is more preferable the latter will likely be the case knowing human nature--the net results will be developing greener packaging or a switch to virtual alternatives: cloud computing, doing away with printing and online-only reading.


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